Well, they are both religious holidays (at least in theory – with one at the winter solstice and the other at the spring equinox, there is a flavour of pagan festivals as well), one gives and receives presents (expensive ones at Christmas, chocolaty ones at Easter) and one gets a few days off work.
Oh, and some trains don’t run, due to all the engineering works.
This year was no exception. Between Thursday 24 and Tuesday 29 March, more than 15,000 people were out working on the railway, at 4,000 sites in 1,000 possessions and delivering over £50 million of engineering work.
54 of those sites were classified as RED sites, those which carried a greater risk of overrun and/or a more significant impact in the event of an overrun. Many of those were also the more significant projects in terms of work to be carried out, and they were located all around the country.
The Stafford Area Improvement Programme reached its final milestone as work was completed to bring the new flyover and six miles of new railway into use. The new track was connected to the West Coast main line, and three ‘tie ins’ constructed – 150 metres of track and OLE for the new Down Slow line, 400 metres of track and OLE at Yarnfield and a new H-switch for the new Up Slow. Solid State Interlockings were upgraded at Norton Bridge, further signalling upgrades completed at Stafford station and the whole Norton Bridge area added to the Stafford workstation at Rugby Rail Operating Centre (ROC).
Work is underway on the Ordsall Chord project in Manchester. Over Easter, an 11-day blockade was taken to cover work in two main areas. Major remodelling at Victoria West, which is beside Manchester Victoria station, saw a new track layout, signalling system and overhead line equipment (OLE) added as well as a new train detection system installed. Another team removed the existing bridge deck and installed a new bridge deck at Span 19 on Middlewood Viaduct. This will be where the chord will join the existing railway.
In Birmingham, the twin-span bridge over the Birmingham Canal, which carries the electrified Stour Lines between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, was replaced with a new 25 metre long steel underbridge. Each span weighed 120 tonnes and 100 yards of track on each line were also replaced.
A smaller bridge, a single span underbridge over a private access path located in Mickle Trafford, was also replaced. This structure carries the Up and Down main lines of the Chester to Warrington line. The redundant wrought iron deck and padstones were replaced with two concrete waterproofed U-decks (including cantilevered combined painted steel/fibreglass-reinforced polymer cess walkways).
Further along the same line (bridge 20 as opposed to bridge 9), Morley Hall underbridge was removed and the embankment filled in. The existing structure was constructed of eight I-section steel beams with brick jack arches spanning brick built abutments. The bridge underpass was used primarily by the adjacent landowners for access and, due to the poor condition of the bridge, all parties agreed that the best solution was to dispense with it.
400 yards of track on the Down Main of the Midland main line was replaced at Clay Cross, using G44 concrete sleepers and CEN56 rail. This removed the need for a temporary speed restriction.
The main support timbers of the River Arun bridge were in poor condition and deteriorating. An inspection last year had resulted in a freight restriction/differential speed limit of 10/60mph. Over Easter, new steel cross girders and rail bearers were installed. Associated pway elements, including new sleepers and guardrails to the approaches of the bridge, were also completed.
At Wandsworth Town, in association with Osborne, four pieces of work were planned. Fairfield Street bridge would be reconstructed, steelwork and abutment repairs carried out at Old York Road, the station subway at Wandsworth Town strengthened and waterproofed as well as platform renewals. High winds forecast throughout the Easter weekend resulted in the cancellation of the Fairfield Street bridge reconstruction. Consequently only essential repair works were undertaken to ensure the bridge was returned to a safe standard. The other three elements of the programme were completed as planned.
Great Western and Crossrail
Crossrail Anglia undertook an extensive stations programme including platform extensions and footbridge works. At Shenfield, middle sidings road 2 and an existing crossover was removed and a Kirow crane was used on the mains installing a new crossover in preparation for the new Country End layout of Shenfield. OLE works, including SPS (small part steel) to new structures, removal of structures and wire transfers along with signalling works to facilitate the changes at Shenfield, all contributed to a safe and successful Easter on Crossrail Anglia.
As part of the Crossrail On Network works, there was a need to significantly modify the existing infrastructure in the area around Abbey Wood station. This includes the creation of two new Crossrail lines from Plumstead tunnel portal to Abbey Wood station served by a new dedicated island platform. The current North Kent Lines are relocated southwards to accommodate the new Crossrail lines and will also be served by their own new dedicated island platform. The new station will sit at high level above two new island platforms. Over the Easter period, 1,073 metres of track were renewed on the Down North Kent line and two signals either repositioned or adjusted. The podium deck was installed above the Up North Kent Line for station construction and platform demolition and drainage works took place.
Substantial track works, including lowering and sluing 495 metres of line, took place at Old Oak Common while S&C work was undertaken at Southall.
Station upgrade and redevelopment continued at 13 stations across Crossrail West. 42 piles were completed at West Ealing, ready for platform extensions, and further platform work took place at Southall and Hayes. However, slow progress of foundation break-out at Hayes resulted in the cancellation of a planned Relief line UTX (under track crossing). In addition, the Bayline UTX was cancelled prior to the start of Easter works. Neither of these works were possession critical and will be re-planned.
The redevelopment of Maidenhead station is part of the Crossrail programme, improving travel from Reading into the capital. On track, 240 metres of plain line were laid, including one super ‘G’ turnout, on the Up Relief and 230 metres of plain line track from the country end of the Braywick Road Bridge on the Bourne End Branch Line through platform 5. Concrete riser walls and 210 metres of coping were laid on the same platform, which was also given a surface of hot-laid tarmac.
Believed to have been built in the late 1800’s, the existing Causeway footbridge near the village of Kintbury, Berkshire, was showing signs of deterioration and needed to be replaced under a design and build contract by principle contractor AMCO. Over Easter Monday the deck was removed in a single lift using a Kirow 1200. On the Tuesday night, the new deck arrived in one section with the road trailer being positioned at Kintbury level crossing. The Kirow crane picked up the new footbridge deck and delivered it by rail to the structure. The deck was landed on new concrete cill units that were constructed in advance of the installation possession.
The Cardiff Area Resignalling Scheme will close seven signal boxes, including Cardiff PSB and the manned level crossing box at St Fagans, and transfer control into the Wales ROC. It will also deliver significant track renewals and remodelling enabling the layout, especially in Cardiff East, to be rationalised whilst creating additional operational flexibility. Over Easter 2016, during a 77.5 hour possession, points at the east end of Platforms 6 and 7 in Cardiff Central station were recovered and new points installed together with a turnout into the new platform 8. Approximately 1200 tonnes of spoil was removed and new ballast installed. Demolition of the old Cardiff East signal box slab was completed and then rebuilt to provide a new base for a new signalling equipment building.
In East Kent, a new signalling system between Longfield and Sittingbourne was successfully commissioned, transferring the control of the signalling to the East Kent Signalling Centre (EKSC) at Gillingham. The project team also successfully re-controlled Strood from Ashford Integrated Electronic Control Centre (IECC) and Sheerness Branch from Sittingbourne signal box to the EKSC.
Eight switch and crossing units at the London end of Battersea Park station were renewed, along with 700 metres of third rail. The associated signalling equipment and points heaters were installed and tested and the whole site handed back at line speed.
A complete crossover was renewed at Peterborough while the associated OLE was replaced and adjusted, including a 250 metre slue.
In Scotland, work continued under the 20 week blockade to upgrade Queen St Tunnel. Over Easter, the S&C North Alliance renewed 120 yards of rail and sleepers and stressed 600 yards of plain line. This was part of a renewal of around two miles of plain line, 250 yards of drainage, five point ends upgraded to SPX In-bearer Clamp Lock (IBCL) layout and the heavy refurbishment of four point ends, including re-timbering/ re-gauging and changing steel work, which took place during the first three weeks of the blockade in tandem with EGIP works (Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme).
Galton Junction is positioned just south of Smethwick Galton Bridge station. This junction was very prone to failure, particularly in the summer months, so a complete remodeling including four point ends and 380 metres of plain line track was called for. Eight new piled foundations and OLE structures were also needed along with 630 metres of new OLE wire as well as relay changes and signal testing to operate the signalling system with the remodelled layout.
338 yards of track were renewed at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton, as was 500 yards at Tipton, Staffordshire. However, in the latter case, an asbestos pipe was found running parallel to the railway in the four foot, at approximately 150mm depth. To recover the lost time, 340 yards of ballast were only skimmed so that the new track could be laid and the line returned to service on schedule.
Works Delivery and Asset Protection
At the quaintly named ‘Music Hall Slips’ at Waterloo, eight point ends were refurbished over the Easter period. 13 crossings and 220 timbers were installed as panels using a Kirow 810 crane and part piece-meal. This work forms part of a major S&C refurbishment around Waterloo in Control Period 5 to improve reliability of track assets, an investment of £5 million in preparation for the August 2017 Blockade.
The A6MARR project is a £300 million externally funded highway scheme that interfaces with the railway at five discrete locations between Hazel Grove (near Stockport) and Manchester Airport. Over Easter 2016 a new underbridge was installed at Hazel Grove on the non-electrified Buxton to Hazel Grove line. During a 100 hour possession, the railway infrastructure was removed to enable the 44 metre long, 1800 tonne underbridge and cill beams to be driven into position using self-propelled modular transporters. The works were undertaken by Carillion Morgan Sindall in collaboration with Network Rail Asset Protection LNW(N).
The Easter bank holiday was a great success in engineering terms, despite the best efforts of Storm Katie which caused significant disruption in a number of areas across the UK. The vast majority of works were completed safely and in full and were handed back on time.
There were nine incidents of ‘possession over-run from planned work’ across the whole of Network Rail resulting in 99.2% of possessions handing back successfully. Two of those incidents were attributed to Infrastructure Projects consequently giving a successful handback rate of 99.6%.
Unfortunately, there were a number of minor injuries over the Easter weekend including two RIDDORs. One on the Arun river bridge works where an individual broke their ankle slipping through a gap on the bridge deck and another near Manchester where an individual trapped their foot under a concrete sleeper.
The plain line track renewal at Ilford was cancelled prior to the start of the bank holiday due to drainage issues on site. In Wessex, bridge work at Wandsworth Town was cancelled due to high winds.
While the two injuries were two too many, it must be said that, taken on top of the success of the work at Christmas and the New Year, Network Rail must be congratulated for getting its Bank Holiday house back in order and for having, once again, carried out significant engineering work without unduly inconveniencing the travelling public.
Thanks to Nick Greer, DWWP (Delivering Work Within Possessions) at Network Rail, for his help in compiling this report.